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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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U.S.

US Navy’s new aircraft carrier first to be designed, built digitally

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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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Aircraft carriers represent the pinnacle of a nation’s naval power. For the last century, naval dominance was defined by the strength of carrier fleets. Now, it’s time for carrier design and construction to sail into the 21st century.

HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding Division is a storied shipyard. Every nuclear-powered carrier sailing in the U.S. Navy was built there. USS Enterprise (CVN-80), the Ford-class carrier currently being built at Newport News, is the first carrier to be completely designed and built digitally.

Instead of complicated, two-dimensional designs printed out on giant reams of paper, shipbuilders are given tablets. Brian Fields, the vice president of Aircraft Carrier Construction at Newport News said the digital renderings are now more akin to a YouTube video.

“Or a 3D gaming environment. You can zoom, rotate, and all the information is at your fingertips,” Fields said. “With all the new people we have coming into the shipyard, no matter what their backgrounds’, they can take that information and go to work.”

Fields gave a demonstration of the technology at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space 2023 Exhibition in National Harbor, Maryland. Fields said at the time digitizing the shipbuilding process is a huge money and time saver.

“We’re seeing shipbuilders come into the yard right out of high school, and in a year, they’re off working on their own without the mentor and oversight that traditionally would have taken years to do,” Fields said.

Going from playing video games to building aircraft carriers might not seem like an obvious career path, but Fields said it’s proving successful nonetheless. Fields said younger shipbuilders are digital natives, and naturally understand the visualizations utilized in HII’s digital shipbuilding.

“And the really cool thing,” Fields said, “is the old, crusty shipbuilders are coming to the younger generation and saying, ‘Hey, how do I use that that laptop? How do I use that information? Show me how to do this, and I’ll share with you my craft.’ So that reverse mentoring, that’s been exciting for our younger workforce and they’re immediately providing value.”

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AIRCRAFT CARRIERS REPRESENT THE PINNACLE OF A NATION’S NAVAL POWER. FOR THE LAST CENTURY, NAVAL DOMINANCE WAS DEFINED BY THE STRENGTH OF CARRIER FLEETS. NOW, IT’S TIME FOR CARRIER DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION TO SAIL INTO THE 21ST CENTURY.

HII’S NEWPORT NEWS SHIPBUILDING DIVISION IS A STORIED SHIPYARD. EVERY NUCLEAR-POWERED CARRIER SAILING IN THE U.S. NAVY WAS BUILT HERE. CVN 80, THE FORD-CLASS CARRIER CURRENTLY BEING BUILT AT NEWPORT NEWS, IS THE FIRST CARRIER TO BE COMPLETELY DESIGNED AND BUILT DIGITALLY.

INSTEAD OF COMPLICATED, TWO-DIMENSIONAL DESIGNS PRINTED OUT ON GIANT REAMS OF PAPER, SHIPBUILDERS ARE GIVEN TABLETS.

Brian Fields: Think of a YouTube video or a 3D gaming environment. You can zoom, rotate, and all the information is at your fingertips. And with all the new people we have coming into the shipyard, no matter what their backgrounds’, they can take that information and go to work.

BRIAN FIELDS IS THE VP OF AIRCRAFT CARRIER CONSTRUCTION AT NEWPORT NEWS. HE SAID DIGITIZING THE SHIPBUILDING PROCESS IS A HUGE MONEY AND TIME SAVER.

Fields: We’re seeing shipbuilders come into the yard right out of high school, and in a year, they’re off working on their own without the mentor and oversight that traditionally would have taken years to do.

GOING FROM PLAYING VIDEO GAMES TO BUILDING AIRCRAFT CARRIERS MIGHT NOT SEEM LIKE AN OBVIOUS CAREER PATH, BUT FIELDS SAYS IT’S PROVING SUCCESSFUL NONETHELESS.

Fields: So what we see is that that very little training, right? The visualization is kind of built in because you’ve been, you know, third person shooter game for, you know, for years. You walk in, you understand what that screen looks like, what that information is available to you, how to get to it. Very comfortable, right? And the really cool thing is the old crusty shipbuilders that are there are coming to the younger, younger generation and saying,
Hey, how do I use that that laptop? How do I use that information? Show me how to do this, and I’ll share with you my craft.’ If I’m, you know, I’m going to share tips and tricks on how to be a pipefitter or an electrician. So that reverse mentoring, that’s been exciting for our younger workforce, they’re immediately providing value.

WE HAVE MORE STORIES ABOUT THE U.S. NAVY AND ITS EFFORTS TO MODERNIZE. YOU CAN FIND THAT UNBIASED STRAIGHT FACT REPORTING AT STRAIGHTARROWNEWS.COM.